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'Loud Music' Trial Under Way; Photojournalist Henry Benson Remembers the Beatles in '64; Biden Considers Presidential Run

Aired February 9, 2014 - 07:30   ET


CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Hope you're getting a little bit of R&R this Sunday. I'm Christi Paul.


Thanks for being with us this morning. Let's start this half with five things you need to know for your new day.

PAUL: No. 1, starting tomorrow, the federal government is going to recognize same-sex marriages as equal to traditional marriages in all federal legal matters. Now, Attorney General Eric Holder made this announcement last night. The change applies to every state in the country, including the 34 states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

BLACKWELL: No. 2, Iran says it's sending warships toward U.S. maritime borders as a message. Tehran apparently is upset that the U.S. has recently beefed up its presence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. says so far, this just seems to be an announcement by Iran, and not an actual deployment.

PAUL: No. 3, the CEO of AOL is apologizing now for comments he made about the company's benefits programs. Tim Armstrong, remember, had cited the cost of Obamacare and too-expensive pregnancies to explain why AOL would cut the frequency of 401(k) matching payments. He said the new system would save money, but the employees were none too happy, they complained, and they got their old policy back.

BLACKWELL: No. 4, a company in California is recalling almost 9 million pounds of meat. Federal officials say it came from diseased animals that were not properly inspected. The recall affects meat processed by the Rancho Feeding Corporation. It was sent to distribution centers and retail establishments in several states.

PAUL: And here's your spoiler alert. We're about to tell you some Olympic results that have not yet been broadcast, so just want you to be aware, you might want to turn your sound down. But this morning, team USA's Jamie Anderson won the gold medal in snowboarding for women's slope style. That's the second gold and third medal for the U.S. Today, we did see a big disappointment, too. Olympic star Bode Miller finished eighth in the men's downhill skiing. He'd been favored to win the gold.

BLACKWELL: So this morning, court is in recess in the so-called loud music trial. Yesterday wrapped up day three of really dramatic testimony.

PAUL: Yes, Michael Dunn is accused, remember, of gunning down 17- year-old Jordan Davis after a dispute at a gas station in 2012. Well, yesterday, his fiancee took the stand. Look, she was just torn up as she described the night of that shooting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you hear?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard pop, pop, pop.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when you heard those noises, did you know what they were?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you woke up, was the television on?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And did you happen to see something on the news?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that point in time, did you learn that a teenager had been killed at the gas station?



BLACKWELL: So, was that testimony damaging? And if so, how much damage did it cause to Dunn's case? CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara, is outside the courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida. Mark, did her testimony help or hurt her fiance's case?

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it was good testimony for this reason, it evidenced the emotions of what was going on both with her and with Mr. Dunn that night. I think she was believable and credible. She showed a very traumatic event and she testified about it.

I think one concern they're going to have is how to explain away why they didn't call 911 right away. I think she gave what she could in that regard. It's going to be a difficult uphill battle for the defense to convince them that he acted reasonably with the shooting, but that the unreasonable behavior of not calling the police should be excused by the emotions of it.

PAUL: Okay, so, I mean, his fiancee there told the jury that he told her he, quote, "hated thug music" after hearing the radio from the car that Davis was in. You know, Mark, that this case has gained national attention because of its similarities to your former client, George Zimmerman, and his trial. Do you think that an argument of self- defense is going to stand up in this court? O'MARA: Here's my concern with this case. If you compare it to the Zimmerman case, in Zimmerman, we had an ongoing argument and altercation. We had physical evidence of a fight. We had an extended period of time of that fight.

In this particular case, in the Dunn case, we have none of that. We have somebody with, you know, a lot of room in between him and the eventual victim of the shooting. We have an opportunity for him to get away. And then we have his behavior afterwards, which, again, seems unreasonable.

With Mr. Zimmerman's case, of course, the police were right there, right away. He gave statements and he told the information as quickly as he could.

I think it's a very uphill battle, because, again, to believe that there's an imminent fear of great bodily harm, which is what Dunn has to prove. It's not truly his burden, but it's going to be in the jury's eyes. To be able to do that, he's got to be able to convince them that he acted reasonably, and the behavior afterwards, I think, he's going to have a tough time. I don't know how people will believe it's reasonable to go home, go to a hotel room, have a pizza before calling the police.

BLACKWELL: You know what else we learned from his fiancee, something else they had were some drinks. The couple had been drinking the night of the shooting, and this fiancee says she was concerned for Dunn's well-being behind the wheel. What impact could that have in this case?

O'MARA: Well, you know, the fact that he may have been drinking beforehand could have been another reason to leave the scene. It certainly could have affected his judgment as to whether or not taking out a weapon was appropriate. So I think the state's going to focus on that and say he wasn't, he may have been somewhat impaired, or at least we don't know if he was impaired, since he left the scene.

But let's not forget another part that I think Strolla (ph), the defense attorney, has to get across to the jury. People are not good at reliving or recounting traumatic events. Dunn's not going to be good at it if he testifies. Obviously, the fiancee showed the emotion she had with it. And even the other occupants of the vehicle, though they came across almost in lockstep with each other, I think if Strolla can get across the idea that when a trauma of a shooting happens, it's very difficult to recount. That may give the defense some room to argue reasonable doubt within it.

BLACKWELL: We'll continue to watch this. Mark O'Mara, thank you for your expertise here.

O'MARA: Great to be here and great to see you guys.

BLACKWELL: Likewise.

PAUL: Thank you. BLACKWELL: New this morning, you know that controversial George Zimmerman fight, we just talked to Mark O'Mara, let's talk about his former client. The fight has been called off. The boxing promoter behind the bout appeared on our show yesterday.

PAUL: And after that appearance, apparently he made the decision to call the fight off. He tweeted, quote, "the George Zimmerman fight is canceled. I'm sorry for anyone I hurt with this." End quote.

BLACKWELL: There's also this statement to CNN we received just moments ago. Damon Feldman (ph) said he was tempted to go through with it for the money, but here's the quote, "I looked at it in a different perspective. It was hurting too many people. That's just not the direction I want to go. I don't care how much money I could have made on this." Damon told us yesterday that the fight between Zimmerman and possibly rapper DMX would happen soon, but that's since changed. He now says he'll update the situation. He's called a news conference on Tuesday.

Still to come on new day, we are talking to the man behind some of the most memorable Beatles pictures ever taken.


HARRY BENSON, PHOTOJOURNALIST: One night after a show, I remember Paul was sitting and drinking, and John came up behind him with a pillow and hits him in the back of the head.


PAUL: Famed photojournalist Harry Benson is coming up live with Beatles stories you've probably not heard yet.


PAUL: Oh, my goodness. Just unmistakable sights and sounds from 50 years ago today. Marking the moment the Beatles invaded America. That not only changed the course of music, but fashion and culture across the globe too.

BLACKWELL: There's one man, photojournalist Harry Benson. He had a front seat to it all. He was welcomed into the Beatles' inner circle and spent the time with the band, documenting every part of their lives, and of course, he was there just steps behind this band when they landed in New York and exploded onto the national stage. And they appeared, of course, on the Ed Sullivan show for the very first time.

And Mr. Benson joins us now live from London. He's also the author of "Harry Benson: The Beatles." This book is filled with iconic photos of the iconic band.

Good to have you with us. And I want you to take us back 50 years and describe for us what it was like when they landed right there in New York and this love affair began. BENSON: Well, it was a new experience for me, and the boys were, they were nervous, and you know, they heard about, you know, the problems and they discussed, you know, the problems with civil rights. And -- but, you know, I think the Beatles had a tremendous effect on America by lifting it up, and it wasn't long after the Kennedy assassination. I think they brought a lot of happiness.

What was interesting about the Beatles was, it went from a music story into a news story very quickly.


BENSON: That you would see different people covering it, not just the music people. And I'm not putting down the music people, they're great. But there were a lot of serious journalists that wanted to talk to them. Because it was now a phenomenon.

PAUL: So, is there one particular, you know, memory that stands out to you? That you will always remember, about these four? Something that maybe we don't know about them?

BENSON: You want to know something that you don't know?

PAUL: Something about this group that we didn't know before.

BENSON: Okay, I'll tell you something that people don't mention. John Lennon brought his wife, Cynthia, a nice blond-haired girl, and she was horribly put, put out of sight and sent home. And I know it broke -- I know it broke's John heart. John wasn't happy about it. And she wasn't, because we spoke on the plane. I mean, I photographed it, I photographed them on the plane, on the plane coming over. And you know, photographs don't lie.

And that was a -- they tried putting a black wig on her for a couple of days. And -- but that was the sad part that they kept quiet, because they wanted them to look like, you know, fresh. Which they were, you know, they were terrific.

BLACKWELL: Can we talk about one of these iconic photographs? It's the pillow fight you caught on camera. Take us to that night. How did that all happen?

BENSON: Well, I was in the Beatles' room after the concert one night, on the Olympia (ph) (inaudible), and this was late at night. And one of the Beatles mentioned, that was some pillow fight we had the other night. So it was like, not a bad picture, but there was a problem, there was another photographer from the Daily Mail there. And I was the Daily Express, so it was competition. And I just hope he hadn't caught on to this.

Anyway, but, excuse me, two nights later, I'm back in the room, late at night, how about a pillow fight? They all said, yes. Then John said, no, we'll look silly and childish, and they all agreed, but then Paul was having a drink on the couch. John creeps up behind him and hits him in the back of the head. Spills his drink. That was the pillow fight. Then it went exactly how it happened. Not posed, not set up. And it's a happy picture.

PAUL: You've taken some beautiful photographs, and being that it's been 50 years at this point, you've had time to think it out. You know, John, Paul, George, Ringo. Is there any one of them that you feel you connected with better than others?

BENSON: On the Beatles, you mean?

PAUL: Yes.


BENSON: Maybe George. But John was a fine person, so was Paul. I mean, I could do a picture of three Beatles, but Paul had to be one of them. And if you look in the pillow fight picture, it's Paul that's holding up the pillow.

BLACKWELL: So you had to have Paul in the photo.

BENSON: Beg your pardon?

BLACKWELL: You had to have Paul in those photographs?

BENSON: That's right, yes. He was perfect. They all were. Really, they were. And -- but I wasn't a -- I mean, I wasn't a music photographer. I was a news photographer, because as soon as that finished, I was covering the civil rights in America. And I stayed.

BLACKWELL: Well, when they hit in '64, it was a news story. Harry Benson, photojournalist, thank you for your stories and the amazing photographs. Also the author of "Harry Benson: The Beatles." Good to have you this morning.

BENSON: Thank you so much.

PAUL: Thank you so much.

All right, well, Vice President Joe Biden tells CNN that he'll make his decision on a presidential run by next summer.

BLACKWELL: But that comment may have been a big clue about Hillary Clinton's future. We'll break it all down for you.


BLACKWELL: This week Vice President Joe Biden told CNN about his possible run for the White House and quite possibly dropped some big hints about how Hillary Clinton could affect his decision.

PAUL: Yes. CNN's senior political correspondent Brianna Keilar is cluing us into all of this. Hi, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi and Victor, Biden really made news on CNN talking about his timeline for deciding if he's running in 2016. And we learned from speaking to sources close to him that he intentionally chose a decision date well after Hillary Clinton, who says she will say this year if she's running.


KEILAR: Joe Biden telling CNN he is actively considering another run for president.

(ON CAMERA): Can I have a time table?

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: Probably -- realistically a year this summer.

KEILAR: Summer 2015. That, sources close to the vice president confirm, is a very real target date.

Give me another good reason why you shouldn't run.

BIDEN: I can't.


BIDEN: There may be reasons I don't run, but there's no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run.

KEILAR: But sources say Biden realizes that could change in the next year and a half, an eternity in politics. Top of his mind, his family, and if they think he should run. They did, after all, nix a 2004 effort. Sources say despite his 1988 surgeries to repair brain aneurysms, Biden is very healthy. He does not drink, he watches what he eats, he stays fit. But he's not young.

BIDEN: I feel no regret, not one single solitary ounce of regret.

KEILAR: He's run for president twice unsuccessfully and knows the grueling nature of the campaign trail and White House. In 2016, he turns 74, which would make him the oldest first-term president in history.

The health of his son Beau, the attorney general of Delaware who was treated last year at a renowned cancer center, is a key consideration for Biden. In November, Beau said his doctors gave him a clean bill of health, but for the vice president, a man who lost his first wife and a daughter in a car crash, the health of his family will be a determining factor in a presidential run.

Beyond his family, the biggest influence on his decision, Hillary Clinton. Her powerhouse candidacy, should she run, might dissuade Biden. Clinton has yet to announce, but Democratic donors and political masterminds are overwhelmingly throwing their weight behind her.


KEILAR: In fact, some of President Obama's key campaign aides have already signed up with groups supportive of Clinton, and Biden doesn't have a grassroots infrastructure. There is no super PAC supporting him. But one source close to him said that a team could be put together quickly. After all, I was told, he is the vice president. Christi and Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right, CNN senior political correspondent, Brianna Keilar, thank you.

PAUL: Want to check in now with CNN's John King in Washington with a look at what's coming up this morning on "Inside Politics." Good morning, John.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Victor and Christi. A big week in politics means a lively conversation just ahead on "Inside Politics." Today, Speaker John Boehner's sudden about-face on immigration reform. Last week, you'll remember, he wanted action this year, but now he says probably not. We discuss how that impacts the 2014 campaign year.

And if President Obama is being told stay away by vulnerable Democrats, well, who then can we expect to see on the trail for Democrats this fall? We know Bill Clinton is raring to go. Joe Biden says he's ready, too. What about Hillary Clinton? Could she help or hurt the Democrats in big races? We'll go "Inside Politics" at the bottom of the hour. Christi and Victor.

BLACKWELL: John, thank you. Catch "Inside Politics" with John King coming up this morning at 8:30 Eastern here on CNN.


PAUL: We want to give you something to smile about today. I think this is at least one of the things that will do it. New additions, look at this, to the animal family at a zoo in Auckland, New Zealand. Rare twin red panda cubs. They're the second and third offspring of their parents born at the zoo. Their species is in danger because of habitat loss and illegal poaching.

BLACKWELL: It's time for the good stuff. Do you remember that story out of Utah, the kids who didn't have enough money in their accounts for lunch, the lunches were tossed out? There's a dad in Houston who was not about to let that happen.

PAUL: Kenny Thompson is his name. He apparently got wind some elementary school kids were in the same situation and they were getting cold cheese sandwiches, not a tray of hot food. So he walked down to the school, pulled out his wallet, and paid $465 of his own money to zero out all those delinquent accounts. In all, he helped pay for more than 60 kids.



KENNY THOMPSON: These are elementary school kids. They don't need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.

When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, didn't have that stress, best money I ever spent. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: Bless his heart. Kenny, you are inspiring for sure.

BLACKWELL: It's tough to focus when you are just eating a cold cheese sandwich. Thanks to Kenny.

Now to Pennsylvania, a couple in Pittsburgh touched by a tragedy and helped by the kindness of strangers. They saw their home burn to the ground about a week ago. They have four kids, no insurance, no savings.

PAUL: So this is when somebody came in, heard their plea for help. This was on a radio station, and this guy donated a home to them. Yes, an entire home. He says it made him feel good, as it should. Boy, kudos to both of those men this morning.